It's been a weird year on the PGA Tour. A very, very weird year. One of those years that will leave golf historians scratching their heads when they look back 50 years from now at 2011 and wonder just what the heck went on.
But is it the strangest season in golf history? It sure seems like that on paper.
First and foremost, for only the second time in the post-World War II era, all four winners of the majors were first-time major winners. Keegan Bradley won his first ever start in a major at the PGA Championship, becoming just the third player to ever do that, and became the first player to ever win a major with a long-putter, a device that has been around for nearly 30 years.
On top of that, we had a youngster win the U.S. Open by eight shots, a no-name win the Masters with birdies on the final four holes, something that had never happened before, and a 42-year-old Irishman take home the Open Championship. Speaking of Ireland, a place with a population similar to the state of Nebraska, for the third time in the last six majors, a Northern Irishman claimed victory at a major.
But it wasn't just the majors. Look at some of the stats for the other PGA Tour tournaments this year.
There have been eight rookie winners on the PGA Tour this year, the most since 1970, and 12 first-time winners so far this season, meaning that a lot of guys are seeing the fact that the tour is wide open and pouncing on it.
Stranger than that? The lack of dominance from the big names on tour. Tiger Woods hasn't won since 2009. Phil Mickelson has just one win this year. Nobody on tour has more than two wins all year, and names like Dustin Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Jason Day and Hunter Mahan haven't found the winner's circle in 2011.
Probably the strangest part of the year has been dealing with what to expect from Woods, who has been in contention, hurt and sidelined, and who eventually returned for a brief stint that saw him break 70 just once in six rounds before he disappeared after a PGA Championship missed cut, the first of his career, only to announce he might return to the, wait for it, Fall Series! Oh, and Tiger missed out on the playoffs. That's not normal.
And what about the playoffs? For a while, it seemed every tournament was ending in a playoff, highlighted by a run from the Heritage to the St. Jude that saw six of eight tournaments decided in extra time.
Who is leading the FedEx Cup right now? A guy that missed two of four cuts in majors this year. Who is one of the five two-time winners on tour this season? A 36-year-old guy named Mark Wilson, who most have never heard of until his great play in Phoenix. And a guy that wears two gloves and swings like he's doing the Dougie has been in contention not once, not twice but three times this season.
Sergio Garcia returned to good form. Adam Scott reinvented himself with a new putter and Tiger's caddie, and Davis Love III decided to start playing some great golf again before he captains the 2012 Ryder Cup team.
The U.S. Open was too easy, and the PGA Championship was too hard. The British was decided by a lay-up on a par-5 by one of the longest hitters in the game, The Players by a short putt missed by one of the steadiest putters in golf, and the PGA by a guy named Dufner playing the last four holes like his namesake.
We will remember 2011 as the year Tiger's legacy really came into question, the short putter finally was defeated, and the most popular golf club in the world was a white-headed driver.
It's been strange, but maybe even stranger than it all is with four tournaments left, we have absolutely no idea what to make of any of this. Maybe for the first time ever, the FedEx Cup playoffs really do matter. That could be the strangest of them all.